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tv   [untitled]    February 10, 2012 1:30pm-2:00pm EST

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strong support of a draft u.n. security council proposed by the kingdom of morocco on behalf of the arab league. it called for the implementation of the arab league plan to stop all violence in syria from all sides and to begin a political transition. mr. speaker there was nothing in this draft resolution that could not be supported by any country seeking a peaceful end to the tragedy unfolding in sir yachlt it demanded an end to all violence, called for a syrian led political process to allow syrians to determine future. it set out a path to national unity and supervised elections. it did not call for military intervention and could not have been used to authorize any such action under any circumstances. it did not impose sanctions. it proposed putting weight and authority of the united nations security council behind a plan to achieve a lasting and sustainable peace in sir yachlt
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as i said at the security council it was not imposed by western nations co-sponsored by turkey, tunisia, jordan, kuwait, libya, bahrain, united arab emirates, egypt and oman. their leadership and strong understanding of their region deserves our support. i pay particular tribute to the secretary-general and prime minister of qatar who traveled to new york to brief the council and played a vital role in the extensive negotiations that followed. on saturday the resolution was put to a vote. thirteen of the 15 members of the security council voted in favor. two did not. russia and china both exercised their veto. they did so despite extensive efforts made to amend draft resolution to address russia's specific concerns. and in the face of repeated appeals from arab nations. instead they chose to side with the syrian regime and implicitly to leave the door open to
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further abuses by them. they did so why president assad's tanks encircling and pounding homs of civilians killing up to 230 people and on the 30th anniversary of the massacre in ham as. we regard this as a grave error in judgment by china and russia. mr. speaker there is no need to mince words about this. russia and china have twice vetoed reasonable and necessary action by the united nations security council. such vetos are a betrayal of syrian people in deploying them they have loet down the arab league, increased likelihood of what they wish to avoid in syria, civil war and placed themselves on the wrong side of arab and international opinion. by contrast i thank the other members of the security council for the principle stand they took, in particular nonmembers of the council, moroccan azerbaijanan, germany, guatemala, india, pakistan, portugal, south africa and togo, all of whom voted in favor of
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the resolution. pakistan's representative to the council spoke for all of us when he said this resolution should not die by being active and engaged we should give hope to those expecting it from us. mr. speaker the syrian regime may have drawn comfort from events at the security council but we will do everything we can to make sure that comfort is short-lived of in is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime. there's no way it can recover its credibility internationally or with its own people. fail to agree the resolution does not signal an end to our efforts to end the violence in syria and i want to set out how we will now proceed. first we will continue our strong support for the arab league. earlier this afternoon i spoke to the prime minister of jordan. i welcomed a special envoy of the arab league and commended the leadership and action so far. arab foreign ministers will meet
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this weekend to consider their options. the secretary-general was very clear about the urgency of the situation, the continued determination of the arab world to act and step up their efforts. i told them the arab league will have our complete support. second widen coalition of nations seeking a peaceful and lasting resolution in sir yachlt we welcome the concept of a arab league group of friends of syria which i discussed with qatar in new york. the aim of such a group demonstrate strength of support and the people of syria and legitimate demands to coordinate intensified diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime and engage syrian opposition groups committed to the future of their country. britain will be highly active member setting up the group with the broadest international support. third, intensify our contact with syrian opposition. the house will recall that in
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november i appointed an envoy to lead our discussions with them. we will continue to urge the syrian opposition to come together and to agree a common statement of commitment to democracy, human rights and protection of all syria's minorities. fourth we will maintain focus of united nations undeterred by saturday's vote. we will continue to raise syria at the security council and consider with other nations a resolution of the united nations general assembly. despite our disagreement with russia and china, we'll continue to discuss with them any possibility of an agreed but meaningful way forward. fifth we will increase pressure through the european union, following the discussions i had in new york with the minister of france, portugal and grpz. we have already agreed of 11 rounds of eu sanctions and hope to have further measures from the council by the 27th of february. sixth we will work with others to ensure those responsible for crimes in syria are held to account. at the u.n. human rights council
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meeting in geneva in march we will work to ensure the strongest possible mandate to scrutinize human rights violations in syria so those responsible know there will ab day of reckoning and they will be held to account. seventh we will use our remaining channels to syrian regime to make clear our abhorrence violence utterly unacceptable to the civilized world. the syrian ambassador to london was summoned to the foreign office to receive this message. despite deteriorating relations with the syrian government we maintain the staff in london. we expect the syrian authorities to provide the same protection for our embassy in damascus. i have recalled to london our ambassador to damascus for consultations. he and his teamwork in extremely difficult conditions to ensure we have an accurate picture of what is happening in syria. i hope the house will join me in playing folsom to their families where safety and security is
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prominent in our considerations. mr. speaker the human suffering in syria is unimaginable and in grave danger of escalating further. the position taken by russia and china has regrettably made this more likely. this house and our country and allies will not forget the people of syria. we will redouble our efforts to put pressure on this appalling regime and stop this indefensible violence. >> mr. douglas alexander. >> mr. speaker i welcome this opportunity for the house to discuss the issue and i'm grateful that the foreign secretary agreed to make a statement this afternoon. the foreign secretary's statement is made in the dark shadow of the brutal slaughter continuing even today with news of scores more people murdered in homs in the last 24 hours alone. to all be clear the responsibility of the death of these innocent people lies at the door of president assad and his murderous regime.
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there is clear agreement across this house, and indeed across much of the international community that the regime has no future and that assad must government the tragedy is notwithstanding that fact the slaughter still continues. for the international community condemnation is not enough. comprehensive diplomatic efforts are required. that is why the recent failure of which the foreign secretary has just spoken to reach agreement in the security council is such a stain on the conscious of the world. i therefore welcome points made by the foreign secretary setting out next steps that the british government will take to resolve this grave crisis. i have not in recent days and do not in this response make any criticism of the government for its actions to date. rather in a spirit of shared abhorrence and determination, let me ask the following questions of the foreign secretary. i share the disappointment expressed by the foreign secretary regarding stance taken by russia and china. can the foreign secretary set out more fully to the house what
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steps are now being taken to convince them of the need for international consensus. in particular could the foreign secretary tell the house what conversations he has had with sergey lavrov since the security council vote and in advance of his upcoming meeting in damascus tomorrow with president assad. has he sought or received any assurances that in this meeting the russian foreign minister at least will reflect the wider will of the international community that assad must government i welcome the emphasis the foreign secretary placed on the work of the arab league in this crisis and prospect of a special envoy appointed and indeed establishment of a friends of syria group, will he now press for joint out of league european league summit to be held in the weeks ahead in order to best coordinate vital steps that now require to be taken. can the foreign secretary give more indication about the level of ambition he's aiming for at that meeting on the 27th of february where possible further sanctions will be discussed.
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separately will the foreign secretary inform the house how recently he's spoken to his turkish counterpart about the steps turkey could and should be taking at this stage to further increase peaceful pressure on assad. mr. speaker, in a statement the foreign secretary mentioned human suffering now being endured in syria. there are reports of more people fleeing across the borders of syria into neighboring countries and refugee camps along borders are struggling to meet increasing demands. can the foreign secretary confirm what conversations he's held with international development secretary on this matter and confirm to the house who within government is leading on the humanitarian response to this crisis. has the government requested a meeting of the council of eu development ministers to issue a growing response to the threat of a full blown humanitarian crisis? mr. speaker i wrote to foreign secretary on the weekend regarding the attack on the syrian embassy in london. while we share an undoubted sense of revulsion that the present actions of the assad regime i'm sure the government
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would agree that the protection of foreign embassies on our soil is a basic principle of international law that must be upheld. let me take this opportunity to praise the bravery of the officers on duty outside the syrian embassy this weekend. our thoughts are with their family and friends of those officers hospitalized and we wish them a speedy recovery. but would the foreign secretary outline what discussions took place between him, the home secretary and metropolitan police ahead of february with regard to protecting the city and embassy in light of reports of suspected protest and attack. were any specific measures taken or contingency plans put in place in light of syrian opposition forces calling on syrians living abroad to protest outside their embassies. mr. speaker shortly before this statement word reached us the u.s. had closed their embassy in damascus and withdrawn all diplomatic staff from sir yachlt the foreign sect made clear his
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remarks the ambassador is recalled for talks. what is the british government's assessment of the utility of the existing diplomatic channels in light of the continuing violence. mr. speaker, we welcome steps already under taken by government to try and increase pressure and deepen isolation on president assad and syrian authorities. i, however, fear this weekend's security council veto has been taken as a green light for sustained slaughter by the assad regime. that is why efforts must be redoubled to end the violence and bring a peaceful resolution to the past 11 months of blood shed. >> foreign secretary mr. william hague. >> i'm gratful to the honorable gentleman who has referred rightly to the blood shed taking place over the last 24 hours and agreement that exists over the house and international community that this regime in syria has no future and he has spoken, as i have, of the need
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for comprehensive diplomatic efforts and that he has no criticism of what the government has done so far. i'm obviously grateful for that. to deal with his specific questions, he asked about whether there should be an eu arab league summit. that, indeed, is one of the possibilities for bringing together a wider group of nations so address the crisis. but i think it wouldting that goes beyond the european union and arab league since they are also african nations who have been supportive at the security council, latin american nations as well. so it is probably best to have as inclusive as possible an international gathering and group that goes beyond europe and the arab world. that would be my preference in discussion with the arab league and others about that. he asked about the level of ambition for eu meeting on the
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27th of february. most of the measures that we can take in syria we have now taken. we have had 11 rounds of sanctions. that includes a complete oil embargo that we introduced some months ago. we placed sanctions on well over 100 individuals and entities. there will be further tightening up of those sanctions but i stress the majority we can introduce we have now introduced. i don't want to exaggerate what we can do on the 27th of february. he asked about contact with some of the other foreign ministers who i didn't mention in my statement. i discussed regular consultations told you about including last tuesday i spoke to him from new york while i was in new york. that was my most recent consultation with him. indeed, i would expect turkey -- turkey was a co-sponsor of the
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resolution and i would expect them to be an active participant in the new and international grouping we expect to be formed. on the question of steps with russia and china, we're in daily conversation with russia and china security council and i've had many discussions with russian counterpart sergey lavrov about the situation in syria. i haven't spoken to him about his vote but i will want to speak to him after his visit tomorrow. he has been speaking to the secretary-general of the arab league so i'm well in touch with what mr. lavrov has in mind for his visit. clearly the russians on a different track from the rest of us. it's been difficult to talk with them. gives regular attention and britain contributed to icrc helping with funds for people who have been displaced. of course he's ready to work
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with other countries on any further developments in that regard. the russian general correctly praised the police, metropolitan police involved in protecting the syrian embassy. there are regular meetings. there's a monthly review meeting between the home office and foreign office on the protection of all embassies. well laid contingency plans in the case of the syrian embassy. those, of course, put into operation this weekend. there were about 150 protesters there on saturday, three of him by climbing up scaffolding managed to enter a first floor window of the syrian embassy. the police presence there was further reinforced. that presence has continued. it will be reviewed today. i think they did a very gooding normal channels are working well between the foreign office and home office. he asked for an assessment of
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utility of diplomatic channels. i've been discussing this with ambassador in damascus on the phone before i came into the chamber. and he has heard the announcement of the american embassy has been closed. we've been aware for some days the american embassy would close today. this is primarily on security grounds. our embassy premises are in a different situation and their security is slightly easier to maintain than in the case of the u.s. embassy. we will review all options. i've said we have recalled our ambassador. clearly we are doing that so we can review all options. i would prefer if we change -- make a further change to our diplomatic change to syria to act in concert with a wide number of other nations so we will stay close to our partners in the arab world and european union on this. i'm not ruling anything out. but the house will understand there are advantages in
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maintaining an embassy as long as we can in terms of understanding the situation on the ground, being able to discuss the situation with a variety of people in syria, being able to impress on some members of the regime the gravity of the situation they have got themselves into. so we'll maintain at the moment any closure of our embassy. we will keep that situation under close review. >> sir peter. >> there i'm certain needs no point of clarification from me, may i nevertheless urge him to keep in mind the fact that inside syria, which he very well knows is an immensely complex ethnic and religious group of people there have lived for many generations a large christian community now estimated to be over 350,000. their archbishop has publicly
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said if the present regime is overthrown and replaced, as it almost certainly would be by a regime of a different denomination, that that community might suffer catastrophe as it did in iraq after the overthrow of saddam hussein. >> yes. mr. speaker, i cannot ever imagine not needing a point of clarification from my right honorable friend and his knowledge, deep knowledge of this region. he's quite right to point to the position of christians in syria, there remains a thriving christian presence in syria. but i think what we have to consider is that this regime is now doomed one way or the other. it is a question of how it falls, and of when, not a question of whether it will fall. that is the importance of our work with the syrian opposition. i met two of the groups of the
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syrian opposition, my honorable friend has had many meetings with them of impressing on them if they are alternative future government of syria the importance of the protection of minorities including of christian minorities. we have to look to that protection from a future government since this regime has no future. during the course of the conversations in new york, did your court raise itself and while i also do understand it's still necessary to give the present regime an exit strategy. nevertheless sh these crimes now do warrant that level of legal sanction. >> here-here. >> these are very serious crimes. that is a wholly legitimate question. we all know where a country is not a signatury to the court and they are not a signature takery,
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thin it requires the united nations security council to bring about a reference to the prosecutor of the international criminal court. and he will understand given the difficulties of passing a resolution that supports a moderate and sensible plan from the arab league, it will be even more difficult and currently impossible to pass a resolution seeking a reference to the international and criminal court. that is why, as i explained to my statement, we'll make very strong representations at the meeting of the united nations human rights council where we will press for the appointment of a special reporter and special investigations into the human rights situation as an alternative track. >> sir malcolm rifkin? >> consider speaking to the russian minister before mr. lavrov go to damascus tomorrow and remind him of the very serious damage russia is doing to its own long-term interests in the middle east. if he does speak to him point
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out to him that the statement that is put out by the opposition syrian national council today in which they accuse russia and china and i quote the words of being responsible for the escalating acts of killing and then went ton say that their use of the veto at the security council is, to use their words, tantamount to a license to kill with impunity. will not russia bear a very heavy responsibility if syria now descends into bloody and protracted civil war? >> i think this is true. i agree with my right honorable friend. that is i have used very strong language of mine over the weekend and in the statement today. that these vetos are a betrayal of the syrian people.
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to carry on in this way, they are turning their backs on the arab world. i think it will reduce their influence in the middle east. this is my belief that they are backing a regime that is doomed in any case. russia is rapidly turning itself into a pariah state. wouldn't it now be a good opportunity for the conservative party which sits with mr. putin's party in the european counsel to part company?
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>> russia, we strongly disagree with russia and pauappalled in veto. russia is a permanent member of the security council. does it have a veto. we'll contino ruia the way forw we will discuss it with all other nations. >> sir campbell, is it not clear that the exercise of the veto by any permanent member of the security council always comes at a cost and the shameful events of last saturday will be no exception to this principle? but in this case, isn't the immediate cost being paid in the broken bodied wrapped in burial sheets of children and the anguish of their parents? my right friend needs to urging. but the urgency with which he should fulfill the objectives he's properly set out. but can i say to him that i
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think he is most well placed when he takes the views that this should be the widest possible coalition of the willing throughout the world as indeed the vote in the security council emphasized so that the united nations was unable to do maybe achieved in a much broader basis, namely the maintenance of pressure upon syria. >> i absolutely agree with my right friend as he can gather from my earlier replies. this is why that international coalition should include motions well beyond europe and the airplane world. i've discussed it this morning with the foreign minister of australia. they're keen to being a participant. i think across the commonwealth as well as across the arab and european communities and there will be a demand to be involved in that wide coalition. so we'll pursue this very energetically in the hours and days ahead. >> mr. speaker, the one country which was singularly absent from
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the statement so far is iran. i wonder whether he can say just a little bit more toward what extent he thinks they feel supported? >> it certainly feels that. iran has a, we discussed this in the house before, iran has certainly given active support to the syrian regime. that has taken the form of equipment as well as advice on how to deal with civil disorder and rebellion. and there may be many other ways which we're not aware. in which the iranian regime supports the syrian regime. this is a classic piece of hypocrisy. they have supported revolution elsewhere in the arab world, particularly egypt and tunisia. they're against it in syria. i think that is seen through in the whole arab world. and further widens the current
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widening separation between iran and their arab neighbors. >> mr. richard? >> mr. speaker, i share the foreign secretary's approach to the situation and urge him to continue maintaining the political and diplomatic pressure that he set out. the third step that he announced was that he intensify contact with members of the syrian opposition. could he lab rate a bit on that? is that on a multilateral or bilateral basis? and is there any limit to the level of resources he can actually commit to helping the opposition in syria? >> well, that's bilateral and multilateral. i mentioned some of the bilateral contact we've had with them. when we have an ambassador level representatives to them as i mentioned earlier, but i also think that one of the roles of a -- of the wider international coalition that we were just discussing a few moments ago would be to meet with the various groups of the syrian opposition.
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i think that would be a catalyst for the opposition to propose their plans, to make their clear commitments to a democratic future for the country, to set out their commitment to human rights and indeed the protection of minorities. to try to come together as one of the challenges for them is to come to a -- to develop a single platform and a single agreed body for taking forward their concerns. and so we will -- there is no particulars, there's no limit on what resources we can provide. we have provided training and documentation of human rights abuses and strategic communications and so on. we may very well be able to do more in the future. >> mr. dennis mcshea? >> the handling of this crisis, if i say so, the minister's statement is very impressive. but before we go down the road of arming the opposition, could
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we recall what happened when the west turned into the taliban now al qaeda a more broadly this is the fourth major intervention in a muslim majority country. iraq, afghanistan, libya are not happy examples to follow. do we not need a broader strategic approach? >> i think that's what we have. i'm grateful saying he can't fault my colleague. let me reassure him, we're not contemplating arming anybody. indeed, one of the things that we stressed in our meetings with the syrian opposition is they should remain peaceful. and we have not been in contact with the free syria army which is -- which is ingauengaged in different kind of struggle with the syrian authorities. i would not classify this as an intervention. we are supporting the work of the arab league.

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